Archives for category: women

I woke with a headache. No arguing with that; it’s a headache, it hurts, I feel it. Being a positive person isn’t about pretending there is no headache. That’s silly game playing that lacks consistent results. It’s more about… being aware that the headache is a temporary thing, that it will pass, and that it is only a headache. My choices still matter more than the headache itself.

We can do a lot to predict outcomes of events and choices, given a willingness to be self-aware, honest, and true to the data. Our choices still matter; our choices change the outcomes. Predictably enough, predictable outcomes change over time, as our choices are made, and our will brought to action. There’s no reason being angry about an outcome we’ve chosen, ourselves, with our actions; we could have seen it coming, generally, as human primates are fairly predictable. Even the unpredictable ones, if you’ve observed their specific ways long enough. Hell, the predictable nature of unpredictable people is so predictable, in fact, that fairly realistic scripts can be written of such things, for our amusement.

I sip my coffee and wish my Traveling Partner well. Day break soon. It’s been a rough couple weeks as his Other’s mental health declined, and her behavior spiraled out of control; that shit gets ugly fast. It was also fairly predictable, taken in the full context of my own experience of her. I take a deep breath and relax. He’s okay. Our friends are okay. Material losses are just things. Hopefully all that ugliness and stress is behind them, and everyone can move on with healing. Done with that.

Emotional resilience in times of turmoil is a big deal. If I don’t have it, I don’t bounce back from stress, and if I am not easily able to bounce back from stress, it begins to wear me down over time, becoming harder and harder to deal with, and as smaller things begin to loom larger in my daily experience, I become raw, emotional, off-balance… and I start to take shit very very personally (and almost nothing at all in life is actually all that damned personal). It all spirals downward from there. How is it that emotional resilience isn’t a common every day emotional wellness talking point? Why is there not elementary level course curriculum in emotional health in public schools? Why has it been such a struggle to get health insurers to cover mental health care fully and without limits? Who the fuck came up with the idea that emotions are the bad guy? Our ignorance about our emotions is far worse than any single emotional experience ever could be. Our personal demons are less likely to be our actual emotions than our lack of emotional intelligence, our lack of cultivated emotional resilience – and the ensuing chaos as our intellect attempts (and fails) time and again to “cut to the front of the line” in every experience. Reliably, our emotions get there first. Visceral. Raw. Real. Felt. Unavoidably we feel our emotions. (That’s why we call them “feelings”.) What we do about them is a wholly separate matter.

…Emotions are still only emotions, though. A reaction to stimulus. Sometimes that stimulus isn’t a high quality of “real” at all. We react emotionally with equal intensity to actual events as we do to imagined ones. Our internal narrative drives our emotional experience every bit as much as actual events and interactions do (for some people, less tied to reality, more so). This is problematic when our own lack of emotional intelligence, or a lack of developed emotional resilience, results in being unable to discern the relative value of whatever is the source material of our emotional experience.

If I am thinking about my Traveling Partner, and imagine losing him… forever… and I evoke an emotional reaction in myself with that thought, I may briefly feel a terrible grief. (No kidding – it won’t be anything like the real deal, but I won’t discern that difference in the moment I am feeling my momentary emotion.) Is the grief not real? Oh hell yes, the emotions are real! That’s what often undermines our ability to maintain resilience in the face of storms of hormones, as women; our emotions are entirely “real”. What is questionable is the quality of the source material driving that experience. Our emotions are bio-chemical. We’re literally on drugs when we’re enraged. On drugs when we are euphoric, in love, experiencing “new relationship energy”. On drugs when we are sad, feeling low, and overcome by ennui. Emotional intelligence is the quality that allows us to understand ourselves sufficiently well to say “omg this sucks, I’m not myself today, I need some space (or I need some hugs) and I’m sorry in advance – I’m feeling a little less able to find my center today”… without laying waste to the experience of our loved ones in a shitty moment by weaponizing our emotions and attacking the world. Over time, “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, if you regularly treat your loved ones poorly. Eventually, too much damage is done, and no apology eases the hurt feelings, or restores the lost trust.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

We are creatures of emotion and reason. Understanding the complex interplay of intellect and feelings, of reaction and resilience, of emotional intelligence, cognitive skill, and intellect, goes a long way to making us seem more rational while we are also experiencing a rich and varied emotional life. Trying to tip the scales in favor of one or the other is an exercise in futility that weakens our ability to adapt to change and to overcome trauma. Avoid or shut down our emotions, and we become distant, tend toward callousness, prone to clueless insensitivity, unable to fully experience intimacy in relationships with others. Suppress our intellect, eschew a factual basis to life, and we find ourselves chaotic, reactive, and unable to gain perspective. Either of those results in our treating everyone around every bit as badly as we treat ourselves. (Well, yeah, because it’s a true thing that we do generally; we treat everyone as badly – or as well –  as we treat ourselves). Fuck all that – it is a more comfortable experience to walk my path mindfully as much as I am able, aware of my emotions, appreciative of my intellect and cognitive gifts, able to balance and use them both comfortably. I am able to bounce back from stress and trauma with greater ease. It does take practice. Yep. And, you guessed it, there are verbs involved. (And maybe a meditation cushion. lol)

Real is real. I still have choices. You do, too. 🙂

It’s time to begin again.

I spent Sunday in the studio. It was lovely. Music, paint, and chill creative time – an investment in self. New work drying, waiting to be seen in sunlight, and a beautiful recollection of time well-spent. “Being a creative” – probably true for any sort of artist, really – is quite possibly the most precious and “important” part of “who I am” that I could ever think to share; it’s how I tell the stories I don’t have words for. It can’t actually be taken from me – by anyone.

I’ve been in some shitty relationships, and gotten tangled up with some human beings who did not actually have my interests in mind at all, and did not mean me well – but only one of those, ever, has dared to lay an angry hand on my art work. Her existence as a human being colors the way I feel about new relationships, sadly, making me very cautious, indeed. Generally, human beings I have been emotionally involved with have been pretty uniformly respectful of both my creative process and the resulting work. Not that one; it is clear that the behavior is willful, deliberate, and intentionally chosen for maximum cruelty and manipulative power. While that sucks completely, and causes me real pain, I know something she has not yet learned; tit-for-tat nastiness does more emotional damage to the person doing it than to the person being treated poorly. The damage to me amounts to only as much as I permit. Non-attachment is huge here. Having learned that lesson a very long time ago, there’s no reason to interact with her at all. (In keeping with my own admonitions “don’t take the bait”, I am careful not to allow myself to be baited.) Certainly I’ve no interest in game-playing or “pay backs” – what a waste of precious limited life time that would be.

Work in progress, not yet completed, inspired by an X. “Toxicity”.

Walking on from something as dear to me as my art work, when I know it is in the hands of someone who will (or has) destroyed it – and who I have clear confirmation has that potential, because she’s already damaged some of it (and won’t return the rest) – is uncomfortable. It’s hard. No lie. Is all that beautiful work lost? Maybe. It may be that I will have to handle it with a civil stand by, at a later date, or criminal charges, or a civil lawsuit, certainly, it is not necessary for me to “take care of it” myself. For now? I have other things to do with my life, and no interest in being emotionally manipulated. I let it all go. I walk on. I spend delightful leisure hours in my studio, painting new work.

I hear from my Traveling Partner late in the day. We talk. I feel wrapped in his love. That’s a story I will tell on canvas, in colors and brush strokes, for the rest of my life, and it is one that brings me great joy.

So much love it regularly spills onto canvas. 🙂

Pay backs are bullshit. Don’t be tempted into playing that game; you’ve already lost once you allow that toxic mess into your thinking. Stay on your path. Be the person you most want to be. Don’t become a thing you despise because you feel hurt or angry. (I know, I know, there are verbs involved, and your results may vary.) Transcending the willful hurts delivered by another can be incredibly difficult, but… every time you do? You demonstrate the beauty of your fundamental humanity. Taking that “high road”? You show the quality of your character – to everyone. What that person so invested in hurting you thinks about you (or says) is irrelevant, to you, and to the world; they have shown who they are. Let them have their skewed world view, and walk on. “Being right”? Not as important as your life. You don’t need to defend yourself to others, or “prove” a point. Life your life. Live it well. Treat others well. Be kind. Be true to your values. Let go of whatever you have to, in order to break the chains that bind you to another by anything but your own choice to be with them (ideally because you mutually meet each other’s emotional needs in a positive supportive way, that encourages personal growth and nurtures you all).  Just my thoughts on that sort of thing. It works for me.

Another day and week begin. A satisfying weekend becomes a new work week. Clearly, it is time to begin again. 🙂

 

 

You’re not a fish, but for real; don’t “take the bait”, online or in life. Breathe through the moment. Let it go. I know, I know, easier said sometimes, and there are definitely verbs involved. It’s so hard to let go of that urge to “correct a misconception”, to push back on an obvious falsehood, to “set things straight” when we feel wronged, played, or manipulated. The reaction, though? Following through on that urge? Yeah – that’s generally the entire point of baiting someone in the first place; getting a reaction.

Doesn’t matter if that troll is a loved one, a friend, a family member, a colleague, some random stranger in some unexpected moment sliced from a generally low-drama life, or even the person in the mirror. Doesn’t matter if the moment of provocation is online or “in real life”. Do not take the bait. You’re not a fish, so don’t become a meal. lol Don’t feed the trolls in your life and you will likely find they wander off to aggravate someone else. For real.

…Besides, just letting go that whole mess, include one’s own desire to be “right” in some specific moment, is a huge quality of life improvement, generally. 😀 It does take practice. Sometimes you may need to simply walk on from that entire relationship. That’s a thing, and trust me, it’s fine. Better than fine. Personal loyalties don’t need to become a lifestyle of self-sacrifice to benefit someone else’s emotional agenda at your expense. Treat others well, and also insist on being treated well, yourself.

To be clear, none of this is about our feelings – emotions are a very personal and subjective experience. You have yours. I have mine. That person over there has their own. None of it is subject to argument; we are each having our own experience. That said, emotions and thoughts are very different things, and the common habit of beginning sentences about thoughts with words about feelings is quite misleading. It’s a poor practice.

The content of our thinking may very well be subject to scrutiny, and we may quite reasonably be asked to reconsider it. It makes sense that our thoughts, once shared, will be dissected and analyzed, and discussed in the context of whatever shared understanding of reality is possible for human primates; we learn from each other. Behavior goes even a step further; not only are our actions subject to scrutiny, there are requirements that we behave within the boundaries of implicit and explicit social contracts, and we are responsible for, and accountable for, our actions. Our behavior is a willful matter. Our behavior is built on choices and verbs. We aren’t free-falling through “accidents”, “mistakes”, and “happenings” – we’re making choices, and enacting our will. If you’ve done a thing once, and others have objected to it and alerted you that your behavior is not welcome, or that it is objectionable, and you do not change it, it’s no longer appropriate to say it was any sort of mistake, or in error; you are now acting deliberating to achieve that objectionable result intentionally – because you do know. The outcome has been demonstrated to be your intention, and saying you didn’t want that? It’s a lie. Ouch.

Don’t be a troll. Treat your loves well. Hell – just treat other people well, generally. Why would you not? No, I’m seriously asking you this – what possible reason could you have to deliberately treat others poorly that you think justifies that acceptably? (If the knee-jerk reaction is “well, because they…”, I have to wonder why you give that person so much power to undermine your progress toward being the human being you most want to be…? Then I’m going to back away slowly, and walk on. I have other work to do becoming the person I most want to be, myself.)

I’m over simplifying, I know. Some of those trolls in our lives are charming as hell when they aren’t trolling us or treating us poorly. Pretty promises. Pretty lies. Just as we extricate ourselves from their bullshit, they flash us a sincere looking smile, say something kind, give us something nice, or explain how sorry they are and how they didn’t mean it at all. Yeah… doesn’t change a thing, it’s a cycle of poor behavior. We know, don’t we, that the wheel continues to turn. Let go. Walk on. Allow them to be truly accountable for their actions, even to the point of losing your affection; their promises are not worth the real-life misery. Trolls are trolls. Do not compromise your values or your boundaries. Your choice to stay and feed the troll? Also not a mistake, once you know you’re doing it. Take better care of the human in the mirror, for fuck’s sake, this is your life. Live it well. Respect your own boundaries, yourself.

I finish off my coffee with a contented smile. It’s early. I woke well-rested but feeling a nagging anxiety in the background. I poke around my conscious experience for a moment or two, just checking in with myself when I notice the “anxiety” has lingered in the background. Is it the choice of music? No… it’s just arthritis pain; the headache isn’t as bad this morning, the arthritis is worse. lol The subtle shift in sensory experience specific to my pain feels a bit different, and I feel somewhat “anxious” because of it; it’s not really anxiety. It’s just pain. Well okay, I can deal with that. I change the playlist and head for my yoga mat. There are verbs involved.

…It’s a great time to begin again.

 

 

 

I talk a lot about making choices. I remind myself to make a new beginning, regularly. I practice non-attachment with commitment and discipline. I let things go. I move on. There is a serious reason why these are important practices for me; I have survived a lot through these practices. These are not practices for small circumstances, though it is the mundane petty things that provide the opportunities to practice regularly. These are the practices for the big shit in life.

Marriages that dissolve – with small children involved; sometimes people have to literally choose to walk away from their children to save their own lives. That’s hard. I can’t at all imagine what that must feel like, although I’ve had friends and loved ones go through it.

Jobs that end unexpectedly – with no opportunity to continue in a field of expertise or passion; sometimes people have to choose to undertake something entirely different, from the very beginning, without wanting to at all. Been there a couple of times, myself.

Abusive relationships – sometimes with real love involved; sometimes people have to walk away (in spite of love) to save their own lives – from violence, mental illness, or a narcissistic, petty, spoiled, unremorsefully callous loved-one unable or unwilling to make changes. Too many of us go through some version of this experience, sadly.

Sometimes life throws some very adult shit our way, seemingly forcing us to choose between our life and well-being, and what we think we want, or think we have, or think we need. It’s not easy. Sometimes the better, saner, choice is to just let it go. Begin again. Choose differently.

To escape violence in my first marriage, I had to reach a point where I was willing to walk away from everything. My home. My “stuff”. My existing social network. My career. My community. It was a matter of literally saving my life. I didn’t have much in the way of good practices for such circumstances then; I got lucky and made some choices that favored my survival. I’m grateful for that – and every day that my arthritis pain reminds me how mortal I am, it also reminds me that I have survived hell, and I am okay right now. Powerful lessons.

It’s tempting to work at things we’ve invested our hearts in, well beyond any useful point in making that effort. It’s tempting to excuse, explain, troubleshoot, or try again (and again, and again…). Sometimes those aren’t our best choices. It’s hard to be sure when that is the case, in advance, and we can be easily stalled by doubt. It’s emotionally difficult to choose differently, to select “self-care” from life’s menu, and “quality of life”, and to walk on from something we earnestly value, even when it is wrapped in misery. A good starting point is a realistic look at whether the thing we are valuing, whether it is a job, a relationship, a circumstance, or a possession, is truly all we think it to be. Is it just a “soap bubble”? What matters most? Have that and be controlled by it? Let it go and be free? It’s a choice. A really fucking hard one.

Still, and again. The very best practices work that way.

Letting go doesn’t necessarily mean there is no later follow-up, and there may be other actions to be taken… ending a marriage likely requires a divorce, for example – that’s a process that has a beginning and (hopefully) an end, but the process follows the decision to let go. The choice to act precedes the actions. Lost jobs are generally followed by new jobs – or some other new option for living life. Abusive relationships are… complicated. The ending of such things can be filled with further trauma; it’s rare that an abuser wants that relationship to end, themselves, they are invested because they specifically benefit from it. Things can get ugly. Scary. Filled with fear. Filled with sorrow. Filled with panic. Letting go – non-attachment- is a broad and well-lit path to emotional freedom. We can’t be controlled by what we are willing to let go.

It’s not easy. I’m having to let go of a specific, warm, and charming retirement that seemed so real and imminent, in favor of… no idea yet, but realistically I have to be willing to acknowledge that it won’t be that. I’m having to let go of a promising-seeming relationship (less difficult that it might have been, because the person involved made a specific point of burning bridges by way of mistreatment) – always painful. The worst? I’m having to let go of 42 original works of (my) art that I have not yet been able to recover, and may actually be destroyed (39 small works on paper, 3 canvases). It’s fucking hard, but even to continue to pursue recovering them (which may require litigation), I need to let them go, at least inasmuch as I have to allow myself to move on from grieving the loss, or being attached to a specific outcome. Still fucking hard. This? This is why I practice some of the practices I do, though; when I need them, they are here for me, reliably.

The sky is still blue. 🙂

I had a lovely weekend, in spite of the possible loss of 42 precious original works of art. No small feat, and I am smiling over my coffee, feeling wrapped in love and supported and cared for. (Seriously? It was like a vacation, crammed into one delicious day and night.) I am relaxed and ready for the work week. I’m grateful for my Traveling Partner. Grateful to have such wonderful friends. Grateful to be okay right now.  It’s a nice beginning to the week, whatever it holds.

Greatest troubleshooting step of all time; have you tried shutting it off, and turning it back on? Pretty good generic advice, even where relationships and people go. Sometimes it only tells you more about what isn’t working, but sometimes it’s a handy quick fix by itself.

Moments of great stress and turmoil? Anger? Chaos? Shut that shit down. Come back later. Get some rest. Set it aside, really just walk away from it. (Maybe permanently, yes that’s a thing people can do – even you.) Chronic lasting sorrow? Hard if the sorrow is over a real, deeply painful, recent or lasting circumstance, I know, but still possible. (Sometimes much harder if the sorrow “isn’t real” at all, that’s sort of a known thing about mental illness.) Walk in the sun. Find someone to laugh with, something to laugh about. Read a book about something altogether different. Hell, take a walk with that sorrow in mind, and really let your thoughts run free for a while. Or take a nap.

I’m not saying “turning it off” is easy. It’s not. It’s hard. Still doable. Still a choice to make. Still verbs involved – that you can choose to do. This is real and achievable. Are you mired in some bleak or horrible bullshit, right now? Shut it down. Walk away. Change your perspective. Go elsewhere. Hang with other friends. Choices. …And if you, instead, continue to endure, and suffer, and flail, and struggle, and fight, and stew, and seethe, and rail against life? That’s a choice, too.

You get to decide. You get to take action. This is your journey. You gotta walk your own hard mile – but you are also your own cartographer. The map may not be the world – but it is yours to make.

I sip my coffee before the trip down to see my Traveling Partner and friends for the day. Possibly just a day trip. I carefully consider what I’m bringing, mindful that there is limited space, and it’s a very short visit. I consider limited resources and individual needs. My mind lights briefly on a distant madwoman, a former friend, an X, and shake my head with sorrow and disappointment. I may have lost thousands of dollars of original art in the storm of her chaos and delusional rage, but she has no power over me unless I give that to her; I choose not to, and turn my thoughts back to the day ahead of me. My day. My experience. My life. My choices.

It’s still an every day, circumstance-by-circumstance, moment-to-moment choice for me to “walk on”, to “let this one go”, or to shut down drama by declining to participate in madness. There are still verbs involved. My results still vary – but the quality of my life improves greatly when I do. “You have no power over me” reverberates in my thoughts. I smile. Finish my coffee. There is great power in new beginnings. That power is mine. 🙂

I begin again.